Poets: Ed Reiss, Bohdan Piasecki
Reviewer: Katie Lee
The Public Reviews Rating:
Word Life is pitched as ‘one of the leading live literature and music organisations in the North’. It programmes regular events in Sheffield with a monthly series at Bradford University’s Theatre in the Mill. Their last event was a varsity poetry slam between Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield University, but this performance is a very different affair. Seating is unreserved and entry is to an acoustic CD of Laura Marling and the like, setting the ambience of a relaxed and supportive setting.
The first portion of the evening is dedicated to open mic, with members of the audience invited to perform alongside those that have signed up previously. Our host begins proceedings with a poem To the Unbearded Gentlemen and balances his introduction with a piece about bad news followed by one about the good. He is followed by Darwin, who utilises more rhymes and rhythmic delivery to perform his assertive take on God as a grime MC. We are then treated to a musical interlude of songs about a Robot Rebellion before a short interval and the headliners of the evening.
Ed Reiss is a local poet who makes the most of his Bradford roots in his work. After opening with Lots of Successful People, and Me, which reads like an Alumni newsletter, Reiss presents a social history document of Yorkshire dialect and the pubs it is spoken in. His is a sharp but subtle humour that hits you later than the line, with several delayed laughs from the audience as they catch up with his wit. Reiss has a fascination with telling the stories of the ‘bit parts’ of fiction, such as the one-lined Hakagawa from TS Eliot and wild Half-can featured in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. These character-based snippets are intriguing, giving a fresh insight into the texts while defending and revealing the overlooked.
Polish poet Bohdan Piasecki begins his performance by acknowledging his intent of stealing our jobs and fixing our plumbing. His casual and friendly nature shines through from the start, as he introduces his work by discussing how he learnt English (from £1 Penguin Classics) and continues through his poetry. His work combines humour with finding the hope and beauty in tragic circumstances. Imagery is of the explosive nature of a pinball machine and the packing of an ocean into a suitcase, with commentary on and acceptance of the clichés in speech. Piasecki is obviously adept in his field, with a PhD in Poetry Translation and an impressive international tour history including performances at Glastonbury and Latitude festivals. This experience has refined his work but not jaded his engagingly pure and honest view of the world.
Word Life have created an ultimately professional and welcoming atmosphere with a complete lack of pretention. This is the contemporary face of spoken word and it is presented in a highly accessible and enjoyable format.